By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
MOST of us have sadly experienced the intense emotional pain that comes with having one’s heart broken – be it due to a romantic relationship ending, a loved one dying, or one’s hopes and dreams failing.
No matter the cause, for those on the receiving end, heartbreak is always extremely difficult to overcome. The pain, at times, is indescribable. And the emotional trauma can have long-term effects.
For those currently dealing with heartbreak who cannot quite see the light at the end of the tunnel of tears and regrets, licenced clinical psychologist Dr Tracey King has some insights to share, and some explanations of what actually occurs when we experience heartbreak.
“A broken heart is so painful because of the considerable psychological and emotional investment people tend to place in the relationship, goal, or possible future,” she told Tribune Woman.
Dr King said people typically use the term “heartbroken” to mean the intense emotional and sometimes physical reaction they have to a significant, often unexpected, loss.
“It is a form of grief for the loss of an important person, goal, or future.”
And although heartbreak is an emotional matter, it can have an impact on the physical as well.
“Having a broken heart can lead to emotional and physical symptoms. These symptoms will differ from person to person. Common emotional symptoms include sadness, uncontrollable crying, social isolation, low energy, sleeping disturbances, changes in appetite, decrease ability to think and concentrate, overthinking, anxiety, self-blame, and hopelessness. As for physical ones, people may experience pains in the body such as in the chest, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and even headaches,” said Dr King.
These symptoms can linger for any period of time, so much so that a broken heart can become debilitating, effecting one’s daily life, she said.
When people are heartbroken, they experience both emotional and physical changes within their bodies. Emotionally, for example, the person may go through the five stages of loss – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
“A broken heart can be extremely debilitating for some, while others are able to recover with little to moderate disturbance. The impact of a broken heart depends on the interaction of many different factors such as the emotional attachment, ability to cope, a person’s thoughts about the loss, social support, as well as an individual’s personality,” said Dr King.
Healing from heartbreak is a process that takes time and takes being intentional, she added. People may feel the need to rush the process along, only to become frustrated when residual feelings remain for months, or even years. However, Dr King said it is important people be patient with themselves and the process because there is no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to recovery.
“Overall, there really is no one way to recover from a broken heart. Healing is a personal process. Some people heal faster than others and some never do. Also, what works for one person might not work for another person. However, some ways to heal might include giving yourself permission to grieve the loss, giving yourself time to heal. Do not avoid your feelings, practice self-care, develop new routines, help others, lean on your support systems, and engage in your spiritual beliefs,” she said.
If, however, feelings of despair caused by the heartbreak persist and start interfering with one’s day-to-day life, then professional help may be needed.
“A person might consider seeking additional help if the heartbreak causes substantial impairment in his or her functioning at work, home, or school, as well as if the symptoms last for a long period of time. Therapy can be useful as it can offer support and assist a person in developing tools for healing from a broken heart,” said Dr King.